Shimonoseki to Kyoto

I was looking forward to Japan. It had always conjured up very unique exotic ideas in my mind, but of course it was also very civilized and technological. So I was excited when the Ferry docked. First things first, I had to get in. My passport was stamped quickly enough. Picked up Stella, still in one piece. I was then ‘interrogated’ for a few minutes. Was shown a chart with lots of drug names on it, and asked if I had any. Of course I didn’t so I charmed the guards and was shortly on my way.

I set off heading East. I found, and continued on route 2. It didn’t take long for the first bit of drama to happen. I was cycling along a footpath along a road when suddenly a car sped up, looking to merge onto the road. We both were going too fast. I managed to miss colliding head on, however just clipped the front of the car and fell off. About 30 mins prior I had thought to myself that it would be a nice challenge to try and get back to England without falling off Stella… Well I very quickly failed! Thankfully I wasn’t hurt. Just a grazed knee. The woman who was driving was very apologetic. We were both at fault however, so I gestured no problem and continued on. Initially shaken, I then realized it was the perfect way to start. Gave me a good lesson in slowing down and paying more attention when riding through built up areas. Japan is mostly built up, so I felt it an inconvenient, positive lesson.

As Japan is an expensive place to travel, and I have limited funds I had little choice but to sleep ‘rough’. So when I couldn’t find accommodation through Couch Surfing I made the Train Station my home. All are clean, safe and easy to find.

First couple of days were difficult as I, in retrospect was on the wrong road. Route 2 was a busy road, and very often turned into almost a highway, in which case I would have to use a smaller road adjacent, and try to follow Route 2. This got me lost a couple of times. After 3 days I arrived in Hiroshima however, which meant I could have a shower and a rest. Eventually found a guesthouse. At 16 pounds it was cheap considered cheap in Japan. However for me was a big dint in the budget. On my rest day I headed to the Atomic Peace Museum. Very somber experience. Humans can be truly cruel sometimes. It was, quite fittingly a very miserable day weather wise, so after the museum I headed back to the Hostel and done some research on my Russian Visa. Turned out it was going to be very expensive and time consuming. For a moment I had alternative ideas like flying to Central Asia. After some more research I found an English based agency that I had actually contacted 2 years prior when the seed of my idea of cycling to Siberia had been planted. I would have to send my passport back to UK, and wait 3-4 weeks to get it processed. Not ideal… So I signed up to WWOOFing as a way of spending some time off the bike, experiencing some local culture and saving some money.

The Hostel had a nice vibe and I would have been happy to stay longer however had to continue on. I set off in the rain. It only got heavier. Thankfully one of the receptionists suggested I take the coastal road instead of Route 2. It was a wise suggestion. Road was a lot quieter, flat and scenic.

The next couple of days passed. Some nice riding, however the rainy season had definitely arrived. The morning was often nice, however by the afternoon the clouds would appear.

I had arranged to surf in Aioi, with an American woman. On the day I planned however I was still quite far away. So wasn’t sure I could make it. As you know, I like a challenge. 126kms later, at 8pm I did arrive. Not before a scary last 30 minutes of riding in the dark, first up a steep climb, then going very fast down! Not fun riding!

I spent the next day at Ulu’s and met a mutual friend who lived close by. He came to meet me, and we went to an Onsen, which was nice. However some old guys complained about my tattoos, something which are taboo in Japan. We were allowed to stay, and the staff was very apologetic. We headed back to Ulu’s and I cooked a Curry for dinner. Starting to feel like I was back on the road now.

Said my goodbyes and continued on. Continued onto Kobe, which was a lovely city. Spent the good part of the evening listening to a live Jazz band outside the train station. Very nice!

I had a terrible sleep as I slept next to what seemed like 3 main roads. Waking at 5 I set off early and made it to Kyoto by 3. I found a Starbucks (which I am totally against, but they have free Wi-Fi, which in Japan is very hard to find!) and got in touch with Lianhua, a former student of mine from NDI. She had arranged some accommodation for me.

We met at 6pm; I then had my first Sushi experience. Amazing. Next I was shown my new home. A four storey mansions which I had to myself for the next week! My first 9 days in Japan had been very good. Now I had arranged a week in Kyoto before heading into the mountains to do WWOOFing.

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